Ah, the life of an aspiring artist! The constant search for validation, the industry’s suffocating superficiality, the clinging to the belief that your art can change the world… it’s wearying. An artist has to be both thick-skinned enough to puncture through the scene’s bureaucracy and sensitive enough to keep producing soulful work that, you know, touches people. There are no guarantees; everything hinges on a single “yes” or “no” – perhaps more so than in any other industry. Filmmaker Michael Walker deftly portrays said hustle in his indie dramedy Paint, which manages to function as both a condemnation of and a love letter to the contemporary art world.
“People don’t have time for your emotional suffering!” Professor Jacob Winston (Austin Pendleton) bellows at his students. “Why are you wasting your time on art?” Good question – one that artists apparently rarely ask themselves, deeming their demons or moments of visualized exultation worthy of everyone’s attention. Dan Person (Josh Caras) is such an artist, pursuing his dreams with fellow painters, the somewhat presumptuous Kelsey (Olivia Luccardi), and the soft-spoken playboy Quinn (Paul Cooper).
“…desperate stabs at incendiary art eventually involve his mother…whom he asks to pose for a nude portrait.”
Dan is deep in a self-destructive relationship with his married high school sweetheart Stephanie (Comfort Clinton). His desperate stabs at incendiary art eventually involve his mother, Leslie (Amy Hargreaves), whom he asks to pose for a nude portrait. When Leslie is understandably shocked and reluctant, Dan declares: “I’m willing to go there… if that’s where I need to go to be true to my art.” As if that weren’t weird enough, he asks Quinn to take pictures of his naked mother – which predictably leads to complications.
In the meantime, Kelsey has sex with an elderly has-been-artist-cum-homeless-person, who steals and sells her painting, which, granted, was heavily inspired by his work. This leads to Kelsey blackmailing gallery owner Brett (Vince Nappo), which in turn results in her encountering Conner (François Arnaud), a star painter who seems more interested in Kelsey than Kelsey’s work. Walker masterfully splits focus between his three hapless protagonists and ends the film on a perfect, spray-painted note.
"…by turns biting and cynical, but also hopeful and relatable."